In my endless quest to end my insomnia (give my brain even the slightest excuse and it will wake me up; it’s beyond annoying), a friend recently told me about ASMR. Neither of us had ever heard of it, and it’s likely you haven’t either. Over the next couple of days we each watched a couple of ASMR videos and reported back via text – about how weird it was, yet we were slightly embarrassed to admit that it did have an affect on us both. For me, if I watch it at night it immediately relaxes me and I would struggle to watch a 20 minute video without falling asleep – result!
So what exactly is ASMR? According to Olivia at feelmoreasmr.com: “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is a complicated term for the pleasant amazing tingles we feel when gently touched, either physically, with someone’s voice or caring attention”. The concept is a bit hard to understand, so the way that I would describe it is – imagine the feeling you get when someone brushes your hair (if you a person who loves having their hair brushed, that is), or using one of the scalp massagers pictured above. Now imagine you could get that same feeling from watching a video on Youtube… I did say it was weird! It’s also a bit like meditation, combined with that feeling you get when you feel under the weather and someone is taking care of you. It can also be used as a Mindfulness activity, as it really does make you focus on the moment (it’s hard to focus on anything else when someone is pretending to brush your hair!). There are now many, many Youtube videos featuring this phenomenon, with the presenter using a variety of sounds and role-play (not of the 18-rated kind!) to trigger ASMR in the viewer – such as face touching, scalp massage, whispering, bag crinkles, hair combing, and perhaps oddest, hair cutting with scissors! Here’a a video showing the most common triggers:
People watching ASMR videos report decrease in anxiety, sleeping disorders and even panic attacks. Back to Olivia: “I’ve received letters from people who use them to help them with their sobriety, depression and suicidal thoughts. But most commonly, people watch ASMR videos to relax and let go of stress and anxieties.”
ASMR is difficult to study scientifically, as the experience is subjective and it varies from person to person. According to neurologist Edward J. O’Connor in the Santa Monica College newspaper The Corsair, an obstacle to accurately researching the ASMR phenomenon is that there may be no single stimulus which triggers ASMR for all individuals. I’ve just volunteered to take part in ASMR video trials, so I’ll let you know I get on!
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_sensory_meridian_response; https://www.youtube.com/user/OliviaKissperASMR; http://dcfaithinaction.org/lives-of-responsibility-and-leadership/2013/04/26/asmr-the-head-tingles; http://www.asmr-research.org/